By: Christina Wolfe, EDF's Ports & Transportation Analyst
Despite the well-known health risks from diesel emissions and the economic consequences of unhealthy air, clean air projects are often stalled because they lack money. Fortunately, funding options for transportation-related clean air initiatives are available at the national, regional, and state levels. One of the key national sources of funding has been the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA), administered through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). DERA provides up to $100 million each year through 2016 for reducing emissions from existing diesel engines, and recently, EPA announced that roughly $9 million is available for agencies seeking to undergo clean diesel projects.
DERA typically funds replacement, repower, and retrofit projects for diesel vehicles and equipment to improve air quality and public health by reducing hazardous air pollutants, like particulate matter and smog-forming pollutants, among others. Through the Request for Proposals, eligible applications are required to have a partnership with a local government or metropolitan planning organization, a public or private fleet of vehicles or equipment, and other interested entities (e.g., technology providers, community groups, etc.). Because of these unique partnerships, DERA has been able to make federal dollars go even further. The DERA partnership approach attracts public and private funding that, when combined with federal funds, allow for more emissions reductions. Both partners stand to gain a great deal in the way of enhancing business operations and improving local health and are eager to participate. In the end, for each federal dollar awarded, as much as $3 from non-federal sources is added to the project, and together these funds provide up to $7 – $18 in public health benefits. Read More
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Courtesy of Juan Manuel Salazar
The following story about the clean truck program in Houston appears in the Fall 2013 issue of EDF’s Solutions newsletter. As we have highlighted before, ports are hotspots for air pollution and the best way to mitigate emissions from ships, trucks and other transportation equipment is to engage key stakeholders and find common sense solutions that provide access to cleaner, more efficient technologies. Below is a success story from Houston: Since the H-GAC Drayage Loan Program began in 2010, it has replaced almost 200 of the oldest, most polluting trucks with newer, cleaner ones.
When Juan Manuel Salazar was hauling industrial materials all over Houston in his 1989 International truck, his two daughters worried. “They were concerned about me driving all day, then working half the night to fix the truck,” Salazar says. So it was no surprise that, as an owner-operator, Salazar jumped to qualify for a combined grant and low-interest loan program tailored by EDF and its partners such as the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC). Salazar invested in a cleaner 2012 Kenworth truck that uses less gas and goes farther without problems. “My daughters convinced me,” he says.
A few years before, an emissions inventory found that one-third of the toxic air pollution at the Port of Houston was spewed out by its 3,000-truck drayage fleet. The result was the loan program. Since its creation, almost 200 trucks in Houston have been updated. Read More
Voluntary truck replacement programs at ports are a common means of improving local air quality without imposing strict restrictions. However, new research shows that these voluntary programs, while a critical component of a comprehensive clean air plan for ports, are limited in their overall effectiveness, especially when considered in the context of mandatory programs. A new peer-reviewed study by Environmental Defense Fund, “Emissions reduction analysis of voluntary clean truck programs at U.S. ports”, will be published in the July issue of Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment. The study, authored by Elena Craft, PhD and me, demonstrates that voluntary programs only reduce emissions by one to four percent compared to a baseline of truck emissions before program implementation. Furthermore, the potential emission reductions are limited to 15 percent for particulate matter (PM) and 35 percent for nitrous oxides (NOx), two pollutants linked to serious health risks. This means that, under current program guidelines, only a fraction of total truck emissions could be reduced through voluntary replacements. These findings are striking given the accomplishments noted at ports that have implemented more rigorous programs, such as the Port of Los Angeles Clean Truck Program, which set a progressive ban on older, more polluting trucks, ultimately requiring the use of clean trucks that meet the 2007 emissions standards.
This is a critical environmental and public health issue. Short-haul drayage trucks have been found to contribute substantially to port area air pollution, and there is broad consensus from communities, cargo owners, transportation providers, and ports that older trucks need to be retrofitted or retired in order to reduce the public health risk from emissions associated with freight transportation.
In 2009, EDF announced a partnership with the Houston-Galveston Area Council and the Port of Houston to replace older, polluting trucks with new, cleaner models. The outcome of this partnership resulted in the best incentive program in the country for owner-operator truck drivers. The Drayage Loan Program combined federal and state grants to provide drivers with low-interest loans and high value grants to trade in their truck. While voluntary programs, such as the one at the Port of Houston, have helped build stakeholder support and drive progress toward cleaner air, the limited capability of voluntary programs, as demonstrated by this study, highlights the need for stronger actions on behalf of all partners. This is especially true for Houston, as emissions from trucks operating at the port are estimated to amount to approximately half of all emissions within the port’s 2015 projected emissions inventory. Read More
Since 2009, the Drayage Loan Program (DLP) has worked to replace older, more polluting trucks in the Houston area with newer, cleaner trucks by providing critical funding and support to local independent owner operators and drayage fleets. (Drayage is a term used to mean the transport of goods over a short distance). The innovative program, administered by the Houston-Galveston Area Council (HGAC) and supported by the Port of Houston Authority, Environmental Defense Fund, and numerous drayage companies and truck dealerships, combines low-interest loans and substantial grants to fund the fleet turnover. This effort has led to the successful replacement of 138 drayage trucks, engaged numerous drivers and carriers, and has spent nearly the entire original EPA SmartWay grant. The DLP has also leveraged grants and other financial opportunities, including state TERP funding. At full implementation, the program is expected to eliminate 1,638 tons of nitrogen oxide, 26.7 tons of particulate matter, and 3,636 tons of carbon dioxide. This represents an important step toward reducing air pollution in the Houston area.
The end of this year, however, marks the official conclusion of the Drayage Loan Program based on the original EPA funding award. This means that any drivers, fleet managers, or others interested in the program should act as soon as possible by submitting an application to HGAC. While there is still sufficient loan and grant funding available, there is limited time to disburse those funds. An amended form of the program is expected to continue into next year, though there may be less funding available due to the conclusion of the original terms.
The DLP has achieved significant emissions reductions benefits for the Houston area and all of the project partners remain committed to work with community and industry stakeholders to bring healthier air to the Houston region. This program is a model of multi-sector partnerships and innovative financing opportunities that can serve to inspire similar efforts.
More information, including loan and grant application materials, may be found at HGAC’s DLP website.
Also posted in Houston, Ports